Fix: Windows Cannot Access The Specified Device Path Or File On Windows 10 & 11

Did you recently encounter the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file.” error on Windows? Here's exactly how you fix this issue.

Windows is a complex operating system, but like any other software, it’s far from flawless.

While using Windows, you may run across an error or a bug. Some of those are easy to ignore, but others, like the one we cover in this guide, can be highly disruptive and worrying.

The “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file.” error can occur during regular PC use.

The sections below will explain the problem in detail and help you fix it.

Table of ContentsShow

The Problem Explained

Depending on your activity, you may have seen the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file.” error while trying to open an image, launch a program or a video game, or while “idling” and not using your PC for anything specific.

“Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file.” error

This error prompt appears when the computer is instructed to load a specific file or access a path, such as This PC -> Local Disk (C:) -> Users, for example.

The reason it appears is that the computer doesn’t have permission to access the file, path, or location, but it could also be that the file was removed or the specified “path” to it is broken.

Although the mistake may seem intimidating at first sight, it is not very hard to fix. Nonetheless, it can be disruptive and concerning, as out of nowhere, you might be denied access to certain files or places.

Here are the methods that helped users the most in solving this Windows error.

Fix 1: Access The File(s), Path Or Location As An Administrator

Administrator

In some instances, the mistake is exactly what the prompt message suggests, a scarcity of permissions required to access specific files on the system.

If you’re using a Windows user profile with no full permissions, which is often the case in schools, universities, and work environments, there may not be much to do besides asking for the person with the administrator user to grant your user the required permissions.

However, if it’s a personal PC and you are the only user, you may solve this problem easily by just running the app or program as an administrator. You can do this by right-clicking the shortcut of the software you wish to launch and choosing Run as Administrator.

If this doesn’t work, the problem may be caused by something else, such as the file having read-only status. Check the following section for more information on that.  

Fix 2: Ensure The File Or Location Are Not Read-Only

Folder

Some files, for example, important system files located on the primary drive where the operating system is installed, are set to having a read-only status. This is to protect from someone accidentally deleting or damaging them.

However, sometimes files that aren’t as important as system files have read-only status, making them inaccessible to the user.

To resolve this problem, you need to do the following:

  1. Find the file, folder, or .exe you wish to access but cannot due to the error.
  2. Right-click it and choose Properties.
  3. In the General tab, under the “Attributes:” section, “untick” the Read-only status.
    Windows untick the Read only status
  4. Click Apply and then OK to save the changes.

Now, you should be able to access and modify the file, as it no longer has the read-only status.  

Fix 3: Check The Latest Actions Of Your Antivirus Software

Antivirus

The same error can occur when you try to access a specific file or path that no longer exists. The most common cause for this is an antivirus that recently quarantined or permanently deleted a specific file.

Sometimes, antivirus, antimalware, antispyware, and other similar security programs can detect legitimate, safe files as potential threats and remove them.

Windows Security, the built-in Windows antivirus software can sometimes cause this problem.

So, if for example, the antivirus deleted a critical file that’s part of a video game installed on your system, you may be unable to launch the game as now the important file is missing, and you’ll see the same error.

The same applies to other programs too, not only games.

To fix this issue, we recommend opening your antivirus software and checking the section showing its latest actions. You may see some files quarantined or removed, and depending on the antivirus, you should be able to reverse the actions.

Upon restoring the files, we recommend adding them to the list of exclusions so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

That method is better than completely shutting off your antivirus, as that may leave your PC vulnerable to real threats.

Fix 4: Use The Group Policy Editor

Tool

The Group Policy Editor is a useful tool that you can use to fix the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file.” error.

All you should do is eliminate the limitations some Windows users have on your system, and then you’ll be able to access the files without seeing the error prompt.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Press Windows + R to open the Run utility.
  2. Type in gpedit.msc and press Enter on your keyboard.
  3. Now that the Local Group Policy Editor opened, click on Administrative Templates.
  4. Double-click Windows Components.
  5. Double-click File Explorer.
  6. Right-click Remove Security Tab and choose Edit.
  7. On the left side, activate the Disabled option, then click Apply and OK.

Now, find the file that you couldn’t open previously due to the error, right-click it, and choose Properties.

  1. Click on the Security tab.
  2. Choose Edit.
  3. Now, click on each user shown on the list and “untick” the boxes in the Deny category, then check the boxes under the Allow category.
  4. Click Apply and then OK to save the changes.

Now, press Add.

  1. Click Advanced.
  2. Click Find Now.
  3. Find the item called “Everyone”on the list, select it, click OK, and then click OK again.  
  4. Select Everyone from the list of usernames, as you did previously.
  5. Now “untick” everything in the Deny category, then check all the boxes in the Allow category.
  6. Click Apply and then OK to save the changes.

Here’s a helpful video showing the whole process from beginning to end.

This method helped many users and should also help you as it directly addresses the problem, which in most cases is a lack of privileges (permissions) to access specific files on your computer.

Conclusion

Although a disruptive and sometimes even a worrying error, the “Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file.” issue is not that difficult to solve.

By applying the methods listed in this guide, you should be able to overcome it, regardless of what has been causing it. There are fixes for each scenario, such as files deleted by antivirus, lack of permissions, etc.  

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Bojan Veselinovikj
LinkedIn

Bojan is a video-game developer and a tech enthusiast. Combining these two passions allow him to keep you informed on everything that's new in this fast-paced digital world.